Advertisements make teenagers vulnerable to alcoholism: Study

Washington D.C.: It is common knowledge that advertisements impact peoples’ purchasing decisions to a significant degree. A new study has exposed the vulnerability of youth towards developing a drinking habit due to the influence of alcohol advertising.

The study led by NYU School of Global Public Health and NYU Grossman School of Medicine developed a framework to show causality between tobacco advertising and youth smoking and applied it to alcohol advertising.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

In the study, Michael Weitzman and his coauthor, Lily Lee of SUNY Downstate Medical Center used one of the key elements of the Bradford Hill criteria–a well-known framework for determining causal links between environmental exposures and disease–to determine whether marketing is a cause of youth alcohol use.

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The team compared the same categories the Surgeon General used to deem a causal relationship between tobacco advertising and youth smoking–including marketing strategies, frequency and density of ads, and teens’ attitudes toward and use of cigarettes–to the case of alcohol.

From the comparison, it was clear that the influence of tobacco and alcohol advertising on teens were analogous. For instance, both tobacco and alcohol companies have used mascots in advertisements, which research shows are easily recognized and trusted by children.

In addition, both tobacco and alcohol companies use or have used movies, television, and sporting events as opportunities for advertising and product placement, with studies showing that exposure to smoking and drinking increases the risk for youth initiation.

“The association of alcohol and tobacco advertising exposure and adolescent perceptions, knowledge of, and use of these substances are remarkably similar, adding to the much-needed evidence that the association between alcohol advertising and teen alcohol use is causal in nature,” said Weitzman, MD, professor of pediatrics and environmental health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU School of Global Public Health.

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The researchers also found that neighbourhoods with large numbers of tobacco retailers expose youth to more tobacco advertising and make it easier to buy cigarettes, a finding that held true for alcohol retailer density as well. Troublingly, tobacco and alcohol retailers are often near schools.

Finally, the researchers found that exposure to tobacco and alcohol advertising and teen knowledge, attitudes, initiation, and continued use of the products are extraordinarily similar.

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